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Behavior Today Newsletter


Embedding Culturally Responsive Trauma-informed Approaches
Sharde Theodore, M.S.Ed., Chauntea Cummings, Ed.S., and Michelle M. Cumming, Ph.D.
Florida International University


Schools are faced with ongoing challenges associated with providing students with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD) effective supports to meet their needs, especially those who have experienced trauma. Students with EBD from culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) backgrounds in urban school settings are especially at-risk of experiencing trauma, with an estimated 30% having experienced trauma (Mueser & Taub, 2008). Trauma caused by multi-generational systemic racism, living in poverty (e.g., food insecurity), and neglect, is well known to place students at risk for poor outcomes (e.g., school dropout, incarceration; Fondren et al., 2020). Trauma associated stress also negatively impacts students’ development of neurocognitive processes needed to achieve academically, build social and behavioral competence, and establish positive relationships. 

As such, schools should consider incorporating culturally responsive trauma-informed approaches within existing multi-tiered systems of support (Fondren et al., 2020). Trauma-informed care is an integrated framework used to heal trauma and avoid re-traumatization (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, 2014). Through a culturally sustaining lens, this framework also considers how school climate may perpetuate student stress through racial bias, racial stereotypes, and cultural incompetence. We draw on Blitz et al.’s (2020) six principles of culturally responsive trauma-informed approaches (informed by Bloom’s Sanctuary Model) to outline how schools may help to effectively meet the trauma-related needs of CLD students with EBD in urban school settings. 

Principle 1: Adopt a Social-Emotional Lens

To address the effects of stress associated with trauma, educational professionals will need to adopt a social-emotional lens (Blitz et al., 2020), such that they are compassionate, concerned, and proactive in addressing their students’ social and emotional well-being. Specifically, teachers can apply this principle by focusing on (a) building positive relationships with their students, (b) modeling effective communication, and (c) responding to the physiological and emotional needs of students (Blitz et al, 2020). Students with EBD from CLD backgrounds who have experienced chronic stress associated with trauma will also need guidance on building social emotional competence (e.g., recognize and manage emotions, relationship skills, responsible decision making). School professionals can actively model, embed, and teach these skills via social emotional learning (Jagers et al., 2019) and stress reduction strategies (e.g., brain breaks, stretching, deep breathing, mindfulness; Fondren et al., 2020), as well as ensure students receive counseling services. 

Principle 2: Maintain an Inclusive, Cohesive, and Nurturing Work Environment

To effectively meet the needs of traumatized students with EBD from CLD backgrounds, school leaders will need to consciously support the school personnel who provide services to these students. In addition to providing professional development and resources focusing on use of culturally responsive trauma-informed care, they can create a nurturing work environment by fostering empathy, respect, and collaboration. For instance, when school leaders encourage teachers to work in teams (e.g., problem-solve together), rather than in isolation (Waldron & McLeskey, 2010), they tend to be more effective in their work with students, as well as experience less burnout and attrition.

Principle 3: Move Discipline Paradigm From “Punishment” to “Opportunities to Teach Desired Behavior” 

Schools should focus on moving discipline away from punishment, as student behavior may be rooted in feeling unsafe. Specifically, schools professionals can implement school-wide positive and behavioral supports (SWPBIS) across the school to actively build an environment of safety and consistency (Bal, 2018). Within SWPBIS, clear routines and expectations are established, and students are taught and reinforced for desired behaviors. Within the classroom, teachers should focus not only on creating positive relationships with their students to build a sense of safety, but also actively reinforce desired behaviors with verbal and nonverbal praise (e.g., rewards), which should outweigh the number of punishments (Blitz et al. 2020). 

Principle 4: Resist the Criminalization of Student Behavior

Because students who have been traumatized and have experienced structural inequalities based on their CLD backgrounds, addressing student behavior in a highly punitive manner may be counterproductive (Blitz et al., 2020). For instance, school resource officers may be particularly triggering for CLD students with EBD. As such, in addition to regularly examining enforcement of discipline policies to identify possible disparities based on student CLD background, school personnel should (a) ensure disciplinary interactions with students are respectful, (b) limit out of class discipline to only extreme situations, and (c) focus on discipline that is grounded in an understanding of social justice issues and relational practice. For instance, the use of restorative practices allows schools to implement approaches that are grounded in building community and restoring harm in non-punitive ways (Kervick et al., 2020). 

Principle 5: Know the Students and Continually Develop Cultural Responsiveness and Principle 6: Address Culture in the School

We combined Principle 5 and Principle 6 as there is overlap. To effectively support CLD students with EBD who have been traumatized, school personnel will need to be sensitive and responsive to the diversity of the students they serve and focus on building a culturally responsive environment (Ladson-Billings, 1995). First, school professionals will need to develop an understanding of how their own values, beliefs and biases may affect how they interact with students, as well as the socio-political contexts of the communities they serve. For instance, different cultures may have varying expectations for adult-child interactions and behaviors, which can potentially cause conflict and heighten stress for traumatized students when they differ from class expectations. Additionally, school professionals should focus on implementing culturally responsive practices that value students’ cultural and social capital as tools for knowledge building (Ladson-Billings, 1995). Lastly, schools can actively involve families (e.g., parent nights, parent volunteers). Overall, schools should consider using culturally sustaining trauma-informed practices to effectively meet the needs of CLD students with EBD.

Additional Readings and Resources

Principle 1:

Principle 2: 

Principle 3:

  • Bal, A., Schrader, E. M., Afacan, K., & Mawene, D. (2016). Using learning labs for culturally responsive positive behavioral interventions and supports. Intervention in School and Clinic, 52(2), 122–128.

Principle 4:

Principle 5 and Principle 6:


Bal, A. (2018). Culturally responsive positive behavioral interventions and supports: A process–oriented framework for systemic transformation. The Review of Education, Pedagogy, and Cultural Studies, 40(2), 144–174. 

Blitz, L. V., Yull, D., & Clauhs, M. (2020). Bringing sanctuary to school: Assessing school climate as a foundation for culturally responsive trauma-informed approaches for urban schools. Urban Education, 55(1), 95–124.

Fondren, K., Lawson, M., Speidel, R., McDonnell, C. G., & Valentino, K. (2020). Buffering the effects of childhood trauma within the school setting: A systematic review of trauma-informed and trauma-responsive interventions among trauma-affected youth. Children and Youth Services Review, 109, 104691. 

Jagers, R. J., Rivas-Drake, D., & Williams, B. (2019). Transformative social and emotional learning (SEL): Toward SEL in service of educational equity and excellence. Educational Psychologist, 54(3), 162–184. 

Kervick, C. T., Garnett, B., Moore, M., Ballysingh, T. A., & Smith, L. C. (2020). Introducing restorative practices in a diverse elementary school to build community and reduce exclusionary discipline: Year one processes, facilitators, and next steps. School Community Journal, 30(2), 155–183. 

Ladson-Billings, G. (1995). But that’s just good teaching! The case for culturally relevant pedagogy. Theory into Practice, 34(3), 159–165. 

Mueser, K. T., & Taub, J. (2008). Trauma and PTSD among adolescents with severe emotional disorders involved in multiple service systems. Psychiatric Services, 59(6), 627–634.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). (2014). SAMHSA’s concept of trauma and guidance for a trauma-informed approach. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

Waldron, N., & McLeskey, J. (2010). Establishing a collaborative school culture through comprehensive school reform. Journal of Educational & Psychological Consultation, 20(1), 58–74. 

Implementation Science is Key: A Conversation with Lee Kern
Jim Teagarden & Robert Zabel
Kansas State University


The Janus Oral History Project collects stories from leaders in education of children with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD). Participants are asked to reflect on events and people that have influenced the field and their careers, the current and future state of the field, and their advice for those entering the field. The Midwest Symposium for Leadership in Behavior Disorders (MSLBD) supports the Janus Project and many of the interviews are available in video format at .

This issue features excerpts from a conversation with Dr. Lee Kern. Dr. Kern's professional experiences include university professor and director of the Center for Promoting Research to Practice (Lehigh University), case manager (University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine), research coordinator (University of South Florida), and special education teacher. She has received more than $20 million in grant support from the U.S. Department of Education and National Institutes of Mental Health to pursue research in reducing challenging behavior. She is the author of numerous articles, chapters, and books about student behavior problems. Dr. Kern’s complete Janus Project interview was recorded at the 2018 MSLBD and can be viewed at .

* * * *
JANUS: What do you see in the future for our profession?

Kern: I think I'm more optimistic than most people. I hear a lot of my colleagues say, “I made such a little impact.” Although I sometimes feel that way, I’m optimistic because we know what works for most of these kids, even though we're not always doing it. I think the movement toward prevention and positive practice is going to make a huge difference for our students with EBD. I think especially the prevention piece—getting mental health supports in place—is essential.  We realize we really do need prevention and support programs in our schools. We know who most of the students at risk are, but we are not providing the supports they need. We have evidence-based interventions. If we could put them together into multicomponent packages, not just respond to one need at a time, I think we could make a lot more progress with students at risk. I think it's amazing to listen to the students; they know what needs to be done. They knew who the kid was, and they all talked about that.

I'm also optimistic about the focus on implementation science. Why aren't we implementing the interventions we know work? I also think the movement toward not doing research in isolation is really important. That involves doing development, working in classrooms, getting feedback from teachers, and trying to figure out how to implement interventions that we know work. I like the way some development grants are now being funded. We're not just coming in with an idea and saying can you do it or asking how we need to change it. We're saying let's figure out together how to develop this idea or this intervention. We know when an intervention works, but does it work with every single kid? What are the student characteristics that make a particular intervention work, how do we change it to make it work for Johnny, or another kid by changing the intensity or the dosage?

JANUS: What is your advice for someone entering this field as a teacher?

Kern: My advice is to enjoy these kids. They can be wonderful, they're so much fun. Try to fully understand your students and understand that they need more than one kind of intervention. Also, use evidence-based practices. Keep digging if you're not finding something that works. Don't give up, try something else. 

* * * * *
The Janus project thanks Lee Kern for her service to children who daily face struggles and her commitment to providing teachers with skills that will make their classroom experiences more positive.  

There is No Manual: Tips for Parents to Support the Emotional/Behavioral Development of Young Children
Meghan Allen, M.Ed
Penn State University

Emotional, relationship, and behavioral problems affect almost as many preschoolers as older children, with the latest prevalence rates reporting percentages of 7-10% (Council on Early Childhood et al., 2016). As students get older, the externalization of the challenges may vary in expression, but many do not resolve, with nearly half persisting into the early primary grades (Lowell et al., 2011). The development of emotional/behavioral disorders (EBD) are more likely to occur in children with developmental delays or disabilities (DD) as compared to their typically developing counterparts (Phaneuf & McIntyre, 2011). Children with DD demonstrate the onset of behavior problems at young ages with general stability across both home and school settings. This early onset, stability, and generalization of problem behaviors across settings suggests more research is needed to determine how to best address this issue (Phaneuf & McIntyre, 2011). As researchers have established a link between parenting and behavior problems, parent education and support interventions can be used as interventions for both children with DD and typically developing children who are displaying negative, externalizing behaviors such as aggression (Phaneuf & McIntyre, 2011). 

Knowing all of this, what can be done to address problem externalizing behaviors in early childhood? Parents of students with EBD or DD that exhibit externalizing challenging behaviors can focus on three specific practices that can help.  These practices include:

1)    Build a strong parent-child relationship.

While every child will exhibit some sort of negative externalizing behavior over the course of their development, these behaviors do not have to become a pattern of behaviors that will negatively affect their future academic and social lives. Available research has indicated the best way to avert issues before they start is by establishing a responsive, secure parent-child relationship. This is done through simple actions such as reassuring touches, using a warm tone of voice, playing with your child, responding to their wants and needs, and validating their feelings. Responsive, secure parent-child relationships are associated with many positive outcomes, including adaptation to challenging situations, empathy, emotional regulation, and social competency (Lowell et al., 2011).

2)    Increase your parenting IQ.

Those who know better, do better. This applies to many areas of life, and parenting is no different. While no one gives parents a manual when you become a parent, that doesn’t mean you have to keep wandering around without a roadmap. Whether through reading books on parenting, attending parent trainings offered by local agencies such as Parents as Teachers, or joining a parents’ group, there is a wealth of information available to address any issues you may encounter. The more parents know about parenting skills and child development, the more likely they are to act and respond positively (Mouton, et al., 2018). When a parent feels more effective, they are more likely to use positive parenting skills, such as warmth, sensitivity, positive affect, consistency, and rule setting. Parents who are not using these techniques tend to experience more negative behaviors and noncompliance from their children. 

3)    Set your child up for academic success.

Stimulating and responsive parent-child interactions have been shown to promote children’s early acquisition of academic skills as well as affecting their initial and long-term academic success (Graziano, et al., 2018). Small, simple activities such as reading books with your child, demonstrating a skill for your child, asking your child questions, and encouraging your child even if they do not immediately succeed. The more you participate in these activities at home, the more you decrease the likelihood of problem behaviors. 

Benjamin Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of care,” and that is especially true with problem behaviors. If you can remove the opportunities for problem behaviors to develop, you create an environment for your child to thrive academically behaviorally, emotionally, and socially and eliminate unnecessary parenting stress.


Council on Early Childhood, Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health, & Section on Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics (2016). Addressing early childhood emotional and behavioral problems. Pediatrics, 138(6), 1-7. 

Graziano, P.A., Ros, R., Hart, K.C., & Slavec, J. (2018). Summer treatment program for preschoolers with externalizing behavior problems: A preliminary examination of parenting outcomes. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 46, 1253-1265. 

Lowell, D.I., Carter, A.S., Godoy, L., Paulicin, B., & Briggs-Gowan, M.J. (2011). A randomized controlled trial of Child FIRST: A comprehensive home-based intervention translating research into early childhood practice. Child Development, 82(1), 193-208.

Mouton, B., Loop, L., Stiévenart, M., & Roskam, I. (2018). Confident parents for easier children: A parental self-efficacy program to improve young children’s behavior. Education Sciences, 8(3), 134-153. 

Phaneuf, L. & McIntyre, L.L. (2011). The application of a three-tier model of intervention to parent training. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 13(4), 198-207.  

Punk Rock in the Band Room
Benjamin Riden. Ph.D., BCBA-D
James Madison University

Some people like pineapple on their pizza (you’re wrong by the way) and others don’t. Some people prefer fire engine red sports cars, others a white smart car. As the old adage goes, different strokes for different folks, meaning different ways of doing something are appropriate for different people. Nothing speaks to me more than being slightly (ok, very) different from the norm. During my teenage years my hair was dyed every imaginable color, and my hair styles were just as diverse (think liberty spikes). I played in punk bands for nearly 15 years (evidenced below), was a skater and snowboarder. I was also an athlete (wrestling, football, baseball). I was a mut, a misfit perhaps. So, what the heck does this have to do with working with kids with emotional behavioral disorders you might ask?


We, as educators, need to do a better job of meeting students where they are and identifying the things they like instead of what we think they like. Why would we expect 16 years old punk Ben to be reinforced with a gift card to Old Navy when really he would be more stoked on getting a gift card to Musician’s Friend. I get it, we are not buying students gift cards, that’s beside the point. The point is, talk with you students and figure out what they are motivated by and what academic and behavioral risks (positive ones) they are willing to take in order to earn said reinforcer. 

So how might this look? Ok, story time. When I was a middle school resource teacher I had a student transfer to my school that had a file as thick as a phone book. But the short and skinny of it is, this kid has an emotional behavioral disorder, he would now be on my case load, and he had associated traumas. After reading the file and seeing what hasn’t worked in the past, I decided I was just going to get to know this kid at first and go from there. So, the next day dude walks into my class wearing a freaking Misfits shirt! I quick and ask him Danzig Misfits or Jerry Only Misfits, to which he replies Danzig (the correct answer FYI). Okay cool, we are building rapport and things are going well in that regard but now I need to start figuring out how to motivate this kid to work on academic, behavior, and social emotional skills. Time to party! Through the rapport building stage with this kid, I found out that he plays the drums. I approach the band director of our school and ask him if it’s cool if my student and I have a bit of a jam session at the end of the week in the sound proof room contingent on dude reaching his goals for the week (we were using a daily behavior report card). The band director is completely down for this and I am stoked! I talk to the kid and he is fired up (in a good way). In some weeks, he met his goal, and we thrashed on Fridays. There were times, though, when goals were not met, and we had to try again the following week. Don’t worry, there were daily reinforcers provided for daily behavior as well. In the end, I saw, and more importantly, my student saw improvement in his grades and behavior in school. Was it perfect, hell no, did we make progress, hell yeah! And it was all because I got to know my student and was able to make a connection with him with the thing he was into. 

The moral of the story is, get to know your students, find out what makes them tick, and leverage those things to support positive outcomes. AND, if you don’t listen to punk rock, you should probably start. 

When I was a teenager, science meshed with my developing ideals - such as the challenge to authority that was central to punk rock. In science, anyone from any walk of life could make a discovery that would overturn prevailing hypotheses. And that was a cause for celebration among scientists.
~Greg Graffin of Bad Religion~


From Reactive to Proactive: Four Classroom Management Strategies that Support Student Behavior
Ashton Fisher, McKissick Academy of Science and Technology

To some educators, the term “classroom management” is interchangeable with the words “control” and “discipline.” However, classroom management should not be reactive, punitive, or about control; instead, it should be proactively planned, responsive to student behaviors, and supportive of academic and social-emotional learning. As Cook et al. (2018) explains, punitive interactions, such as shaming, can damage the teacher-student relationship, result in loss of instructional time, and escalate student behavioral problems. Despite overwhelming evidence that punitive, reactive strategies are not effective, many teachers still use them. Teachers should view classroom management as a means to support students, while giving them the tools to engage with the instructional and social environment of school. When thinking about your own classroom management, consider the following strategies to shift from a teacher-controlled classroom to one that proactively supports students’ learning and social-emotional needs.

One: Give Students Predictability and Structure

Students, like adults, prefer consistent daily routines. They rely on structure and misbehave when interruptions and surprises occur. Build routines and activities within the school day that serve as a consistent, structured component of your class schedule. In my classroom, I see a new group of students every 45 minutes; every second counts. I always greet my students at the door and have a welcome slide displayed with the same four things: a short message, lesson objectives, our class agenda, and a just-for-fun question of the day (see Figure 1). Cook et al. (2018) states that using proactive classroom management strategies, such as greeting students at the door, fosters teacher-student relationships, prevents disruptive behavior, and enhances the classroom environment. By maintaining a consistent, predictable schedule, teachers can maximize instructional time and support student behavior.

Figure 1

Example of Daily Welcome Slide


Two: Prepare and Support Students during Transitions

Many students have a hard time transitioning from one activity to another. Jones et al. (2014) suggest effective classroom management is rooted in planning and preparation. Teachers should examine the learning activities planned each day and consider what transitions might be difficult for specific students, groups, and the class as a whole. By anticipating potential challenges, teachers can prepare to handle disruptions in a responsive, thoughtful way. Teachers can also use visual and aural cues to support transitions. With my students, I display a visual timer and play a familiar song when asking them to complete a timed task, such as cleaning up. If students need additional support, prepare them before the transition happens. For example, I like to say, “Search for a stopping point. In five minutes, we’re going to move from independent work time to the carpet, as a group.” When teachers structure and support transitions, students learn how to move between tasks efficiently, and no instructional time is lost. 

Three: Keep Consequences Logical and Consistent

Consequences allow students an opportunity to reflect on their behavior. They should be consistently enforced to ensure students are not confused about the rules and expectations of your classroom. Taylor (2016) states that being firm, but fair, when assigning consequences establishes the importance of the rule without ruining the teacher-student relationship. Prioritizing fairness when assigning consequences allows the teacher to make sure they are not being reactive and arbitrary. When you do have to enforce a consequence, engage in conversation with the student. Ensure they understand why they receive a specific consequence, and allow them to make amends, to you or other students, if needed. For example, last school year, a student colored on one of my clipboards. When I saw him scribbling, I walked over and calmly asked him to stop. We had a conversation about why this behavior was not appropriate, and we decided that he would clean the clipboard before class ended. The student apologized to me, unprompted, and we resolved the problem. Although enforcing consequences may be unpleasant sometimes, they can, like in my own experience, allow students an opportunity to reflect on their behavior and promote personal responsibility.

Four: Respond to Students, Do Not React to their Behavior

When challenging behavior occurs, separate the student from their misbehavior. Always think about the behavior from a problem-solving perspective. When students misbehave, they are communicating an unmet need. For example, a student who has a meltdown in the cafeteria may be overstimulated and needs to eat in a calmer environment. Or an angry student who refuses to do work may be communicating that they do not understand the content. In moments like these, teachers may become upset and react to students’ misbehavior, typically leading to arbitrary punishments. However, the teacher should calmly respond to the student and focus on the root of the issue. With my students, I always begin the conversation with an open-ended question, rather than making accusations or raising my voice. For example, I say, “What happened?” or “Can you tell me about the situation?” This allows students the opportunity to describe what happened without the teacher making assumptions or accusations. 

Responding to misbehavior does not mean students receive no consequences, but that the teacher is thoughtful and understanding when they respond. As you examine your own classroom management practices, consider implementing proactive and supportive strategies that allow you to focus on building positive relationships while meeting the social-emotional and learning needs of all students. 


Cook, C. R., Fiat, A., Larson, M., Daikos, C., Slemrod, T., Holland, E. A., Thayer, A. J., & Renshaw, T. (2018). Positive greetings at the door: Evaluation of a low-cost, high-yield proactive classroom management strategy. Journal of Positive Behavior 
, 20(3), 149-159.

Jones, S. M., Bailey, R., & Jacob, R. (2014). Social-emotional learning is essential to classroom management. Phi Delta Kappan, 96(2), 19-24.

Taylor, J. C. (2016). Seven classroom structures that support student relationships. ASCD Express, 11(11). 

Dear Miss Kitty:

We have had a rough beginning of the school year and did resolve some issues, but I still have one issue with a student and his parent.  I teach a middle school cross categorical class and have 12 students and a paraprofessional.  Max, a twelve-year old, is in my class. Max lives with his father who does not believe that the pandemic is real and encourages his son not to wear his mask. He calls me most days after school to complain about the stupid rules of the school and to tell me he has no intention of ever getting vaccinated and his son is not going to either. Our school district has a mask mandate and is also giving parents another month to have their children get vaccinated. 

I have tried to quietly explain to Max’s father that we must follow all the rules set forth by the health department and the school board, but he yells at me and now he has threatened to go to the school board because he has organized a group that believes the same as he does, and he is threatening my job. I am very angry at this man. I have been teaching for 15 years and how dare he try to get my job taken away from me.

I am trying to maintain my relationship with Max, but I am afraid my anger toward his father is making me biased against Max. I just don’t know what to do. I want to build a positive relationship with Max, but I really resent the trouble that his father is causing me.

Resentful Renee

Dear Resentful Renee:

First of all, thank you for your dedication and for recognizing your negative experiences with Max’s father, and his threats to get you fired, may be impacting your relationship with Max. It is normal that you are worried you may resent Max. You have taken the first step in dealing with this situation. Recognition you may have a bias against Max because of your feelings about his father is important. Once you have acknowledged this may be happening, you can monitor your own behavior toward your student. Periodically throughout the day, you can ask yourself, “Am I putting aside my feelings toward the father when I am working with Max?”  “Am I recognizing Max for what he is striving to achieve in the classroom?” After all, you have admitted he is following your directions so let him know that you appreciate him.  

It is important to recognize Max is probably torn. He likes you and does what you want him to do, but he is stuck in the middle between the feelings he has for you and those of his father. Max is in a tough position. It will also be important that you not voice your views about his father to Max.  Investigate your behavior at the end of the day to make sure that you are being fair to him.

I also want to address the situation where Max’s father is calling and threatening to take your job away from you.  This is an intimidation tactic, and I believe that you should talk with your principal and explain what is happening. When the father is making such statements, it is important you remain calm and refrain from arguing with him. It sounds like you are doing this.  I would suggest that when the father starts engaging in the inappropriate statements, you may want to say to him, “I understand that you are upset so I ask you to discuss your concerns with my principal. I want to resolve our differences and trust you want to do so also. I hope you will call my principal, and I wish you a nice evening.”  Then disengage with the father, but the caution is to ask your principal if this is an acceptable plan. You want to determine whether your principal supports you.

I wish you the best and admire that you are working to keep a positive relationship with Max while being polite to his father.



*Miss. Kitty has decades of experience serving children and youth with EBD and their teachers; therefore, she understands that there is often more to the situation than can be communicated in a brief question. Please consume this advice with caution, understanding that Miss. Kitty has limited information about the specific situation and, therefore, cannot be held liable for specific consequences should the reader implement her advice as they understand it.

Recreational Reinforcement.Image5

“600 Days”
Eric Alan Common, Ph.D., BCBA-D
 University of Michigan-Flint

Recreational Reinforcement is a column highlighting the recreational and leisurely pursuits of educators and professionals while also making connections and offering illustrations and examples related to applied behavior analysis. This month’s column highlights some of the behaviors that I have generalized and maintained over time since the start of the pandemic. I describe three tactics for promoting generalization and maintenance and offer illustrations.  

Keywords: generalized behavior change, generalization, maintenance, naturally occurring contingency, train diversely, arrange antecedents 


2021-2022 Call for Columns:
Recreational Reinforcement is a bi-monthly (6/year) column dedicated to discussing recreational or leisurely pursuits, making connections, and offering illustrations and examples related to applied behavior analysis. The only rule is nobody wants to hear about work being your “recreational reinforcement.” Please send submissions or inquiries to Dr. Eric Common at  Directions for submissions: (a) article title, (b) names of author(s), (c) author’s affiliations, (d) email address, and (e) 700-1500 word manuscript in Times New Roman font. Bitmoji, graphics, tables, and figures are optional.

“600 Days”
My repertoire of operant behaviors has been on the cusp of late, well since March 11, 2020, or 600 days later, as of November 1, 2021, that is.  As you may recall, operant behavior are those behaviors influenced by antecedent and consequence events. Some of the new, adaptative behaviors I have acquired during the pandemic, are also the behaviors that have sustained me mentally, physically, and socially. These are also the behaviors I want to promote generalized behavior change of, or what behavior analysts call behavior change that proves durable over time (Cooper et al., 2020).

Unfortunately, a lot of my newly acquired behaviors were learned in less-than-optimal conditions for promoting generalization. Madden et al. (2021) recommend three of the most important tactics for promoting generalization and maintenance of behavior. These include teaching behaviors that will contact natural contingencies of reinforcement, train diverse, and arrange antecedent stimuli which will cue generalization. To illustrate these generalization tactics, I describe three operant behaviors I have learned over the past 600 days and have sustained, more or less. 

Tactic 1: Teach Behaviors to Contact Natural Contingencies of Reinforcement.

Naturally existing contingencies refer to any contingency of reinforcement or punishment that operate independent of an intervention agent (e.g., classroom teacher, parent) implementing a behavior change procedure. This gets to the heart of applied behavior analysis, which believes “a behavior is functional only to the extent that it produces reinforcement for the learner.” For a behavior to have meaningful and lasting change it will need reinforcement outside of the program contingencies of a behavior change plan. In Winter 2020 and 2021 I took up hiking in the snow. It functioned at first as an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, exercise, and was reinforced by the bonus of getting to socialize with people, which I was generally doing infrequently. At first this new behavior was on a fixed operant contingency maintained by antecedent invitations and the reinforcement of having social opportunities. Over time, I learned to access new knowledge on which trails were best during various conditions and a general low of the activity which led to me initiating and respectably snow hiking independently even. 

Tactic 2: Train Diversely

To train diversely, refers to teaching operant behaviors through multiple antecedent and reinforcers, this includes settings and individuals in applied settings, such as in classrooms and clinics. In terms of some of the healthy lifestyle behaviors I acquired since the start of the pandemic, such as cooking for one, eating healthy (e.g., eat balanced macros), and exercising daily are all behaviors that have generalized within the boundaries of my apartment, which I’ve pretended was a spaceship, since the start of the pandemic. That said, the more I go out and about in the world again, travel for work and family again, I’ve learned my healthy lifestyle behaviors have no naturally occurring reinforcement contingencies outside of my home (pretend spaceship), and I don’t like getting 30 min of exercise (e.g., “going on a spacewalk”) in the middle of the day if working on campus.
Tactic 3: Arrange Antecedent Stimuli Which Will Generalize

When it comes to operant behaviors, consequences have a lot of power when it comes to learning, but antecedents are what set the stage and occasion for behavior to occur. To promote generalized behavior change, one can intentionally arrange antecedents that will cue generalization. I’ve become a better reader in the morning, and this behavior has generalized outside the home (aka spaceship)—even when I travel. I like to read and write in the morning, and its often easier to prioritize writing than reading. But, one of my favorite activities in the morning is drinking coffee. Seeing a cup of coffee and a clear hour on my calendar (I’ve learned not to schedule reading) sets the stage for me to begin the day—even before breakfast with a text and a commitment to lifelong learning. 

In this column. I describe three strategies to promote generalization and maintain behaviors over time. I describe three tactics and provide illustrations of how I’ve been more or less successful maintaining and generalizing adaptive and function behaviors since the start of the pandemic. 
Cooper, J. O., Heron, T. E., & Heward, W. L. (2020). Applied behavior analysis. Pearson.

Madden G. J., Reed D. D., & Reed F. D. D. (2021). An Introduction to Behavior Analysis. Wiley. 

Authors Bio
Eric Common is an Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan-Flint in the Department of Education and is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst at the Doctoral Level


Recently Released Policy and Resource Documents from the U. S. Department of Education
Mitchell Yell

Officials in the Office of Special Education and Related Services (OSERS) in the U.S. Department of Education have been very busy lately!  In the past few week, OSERS has issued a policy and a resource document that are very important to special education administrators and teachers throughout the U.S. and its territories. My purpose in this brief piece is to provide some information and, more importantly, the links where you can access these important documents.

On September 30, 2021, the OSERS released a question and answer (Q&A) document titled “Return to School Roadmap: Development and Implementation of IEPs. The document is available as a pdf on the website homepage ( The topics included in the document are meeting timelines, initial reevaluation and reevaluation procedures, eligibility for special education, and provided a free appropriate public education (FAPE). Officials at OSERS also stressed that despite the Covid 19 pandemic or the mode of instruction, students with disabilities still are entitled to receive a FAPE. The purpose of the Return to School Roadmap was to support the full implementation of IEPs.

Although OSERS did not specifically address Section 504, writers of the document reminded recipients of federal funds, (e.g., public schools) that they must comply with Section 504. Thus, when providing any program, aid, benefit, or service, school personnel may not discriminate on the basis of disability.

The resource document issued by the OSERS was titled “Supporting Child and Students Social, Emotional, Behavioral, and Mental Health Needs.” It is available at…. This document includes information on the challenges to educators and recommendations for addressing social, emotional, and behavior mental health needs of students. The document also contains excellent examples and resources available to administrators and teachers.  

According to the document, positive mental health, like positive physical health, promoted success in life. Moreover, positive mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood to adulthood. The three inter-related and critical components of mental health include social (how students relate to others), emotional (how students feel), and behavioral (how students act).  The purpose of the policy document is to provide resources and information to enhance the promotion of positive mental health and social, emotional, and behavioral well-being in schools.

Among the challenges that OSERS identified are that gaps in professional development and support. Recommendations included (a) train all staff in schools to promote tier 1 (prevention) and tier 2 (at-risk programming); (b) use funds from the American Rescue Plan’s Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief Fund to hire additional staff, such as social workers and counselors, mental heath and behavioral specialists, and school psychologists to meet the growing needs of students; (c) designate staff with the responsibility of improving school climate and providing tier 2 and tier 3 supports; and (d) emphasize recruiting, training, and providing ongoing supports to expand the education workforce.  The document also contains examples of the pyramid model, typically used in schoolwide multiple tiered system of supports (MTSS).

Because both documents are in the public domain, OSERS grants authority to reproduce some or all of the document. It should be cited by the title and U.S Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Related Services.

Posted:  1 November, 2021

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